Library Story Time

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For several reasons, we have been inconsistent with our library visits. Back in January, we bought a lot of books because our house got damaged by wind and water the night of the Gatlinburg wildfire and we lost 40 books from our collection. So I took them to Barnes and Noble and let them choose lots of new books.

Andy Armadillo visits the library

Andy Armadillo from Texas Roadhouse came over to Story Time at our local library.

In retrospect, I wish I had been more careful with our choices, but that’s another story and hindsight is 20/20. I must focus on the fact that they are reading, learning new vocabulary and seeing how stories are put together. All this to say, we have been busy reading books we own, too busy to go borrow books from the local library.

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The other reason is that we found more of the books from the list I wanted them to read at the Pigeon Forge Library. And, get this, if they did not have them, they bought them for us. Since January, we have listened to unabridged classics like The Trumpet of the Swan, Charlotte’s Web, Heidi, and Little House on the Prairie series (all seven volumes of it) – from the Pigeon Forge Library.

So yes, we have neglected Story Time at the Gatlinburg Library. It is more for preschool age anyway, I thought. We are transitioning toward chapter books and away from picture books and it is a weird little dance we are doing between longer books we read over a week or picture books we finish in two minutes.

This summer, I have come to the conclusion that one of my goals for the upcoming school year is that the kids read one book a day. My son is capable of reading a 150-page book on his own in one day. It takes him 4-6 hours but he loves it and he is learning a lot. For instance, he read The Terrestria Chronicles in a week. I have yet to read that series for myself. It came recommended by a mom I know and trust (and who is more Conservative than I am when it comes to reading standards) and so I purchased it for him.

I like the Charlotte Mason approach, but I am not a purist. Ms. Mason spoke against books that she called “twaddle.” Several people have tried to explain what that means. I bought the Boxcar Children series only to find out afterwards that Charlotte Mason devotees do not approve of it. Oh well.

Come to think of it, my own children got tired of it in volume 2. We set it aside. I plan to dust it off and pull it back out soon. They are older and maybe can handle the stories better, who knows? Or maybe it is not worth it, after all. You never know until you try it. If they reject it again, then maybe there is something wrong with these stories, although I love the values espoused by the children in this series.

My thing is, let the kids read what they like. Sure, they need guidance and there should be a standard in place as to the subject matter and how appropriate it is for a Christian child. But as long as a child is reading and you are praying for him to learn and grow and get wisdom from the books he reads, I have to count my blessings and move on in confidence that we are doing a good thing.

I still follow suggestions from Susan Wise Bauer’s classic “Well Trained Mind” as well as Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook. I have a couple other books with book lists by ages, stages, and topics. Sometimes I Google “book lists for children” and find interesting ideas.

Back to my reading goals for the next school year: one book a day – picture book or small chapter book. If it is a longer chapter book, even a week is fine. But they need to read at least 20 pages per day in it. I usually end up reading to them these longer books because, frankly, I have not read them, and I want to know what is in them for my own benefit. But I don’t have time for all the chapter books they read. Only for the ones that end up on “classics for children” lists.

In order for us to be more consistent with this goal of “one book a day,” I have decided we shall attend Library Story Time every week. It is called “preschool and early elementary.” The librarian makes an effort to choose a longer book besides a shorter book which is “young” in its theme. There is a craft, but she does not mind if my children do not want to do it. Usually, they do not.

They sit in these great armchairs and read to themselves. Sometimes my daughter asks me to read to her. So we end up spending a great hour at the library, picking out books and reading to ourselves. Story Time is just an excuse to make it there weekly. Besides, everybody likes a story read to them.

I pick books for them, too. I gravitate towards nonfiction and make sure I choose from several categories: history, biographies, animals, space, math, science, geography etc. This will broaden their horizons beyond their normal realm of interests. So while they read, I walk around the shelves and pick things that catch my eye. I also have several lists I pick from, as I mentioned above. Looking forward to a year of great reading!


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My mom is a Master Knitter, i.e. she has always knitted pretty scarves, sweaters, cardigans, and dresses. She made me several matching mother-and-child sweaters and cardigans, which we wore with pride and joy. As the kids outgrew theirs, I kept wearing mine, having fond memories.

She taught me how to knit when I was maybe 10. Now that I have children, I am motivated to pick this hobby back up, polish my skills, and make a few things for my children to inspire them.

Children wearing red knitted socks

My kids wearing the socks I made

The first thing I needed to do though was to learn knitting vocabulary in English. As all my stories of exploration start, I went to my local library… The librarian planted several knitting books in my hands. Continue reading »

The pictures did the trick. Stockinette vs. garter stitch, purl vs. knit – got it! Those were the words I needed to learn to decipher American knitting patterns. Now I am in business.

I went to Jo-Ann’s and got a few needles, different sizes, and a beginner’s book. I figured I should start there and build from it. I have made a pillow cover, a change purse, and many, many socks, for different members of my family. Handmade things make wonderful Christmas gifts, by the way.

Of course, the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy speaks very highly of knitting and other handicrafts. My kids are fascinated with my knitting, as humble as it is. I tried teaching my son, but he gave up after trying a few stitches. We will persevere and try again when he shows an interest again When he gets older, things will make more sense to him.

Appalachian Home Educators Conference

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With homeschool convention season just around the corner, I am very excited to announce the Appalachian Home Educators Conference (AHEC) taking place in Pigeon Forge, TN on June 26-28, 2014. I really wanted to attend a homeschool conference this year, but I did not want to travel three, four, or five hours to get to one.

You can imagine how happy I was when I heard that a local homeschooling mom is organizing AHEC twenty minutes from my home! Not only is it close by, it is also a Charlotte Mason conference, for the most part. I call myself an eclectic homeschooling mom, but Charlotte Mason is one of my preferred methods.

With speakers like Diana Waring, Janice Campbell, Joanne Calderwood, Dr. Jay Wile, and many others, you cannot go wrong.

If you wanted to learn how to use Handwriting Without Tears, you can attend their day-long seminar, which has a separate admission ticket.

The cost to attend the Appalachian Home Educators Conference goes up on March 1, so you have today and tomorrow only to sign up at the early bird price.

You can sign up through the AHEC ad in the menu on the right or you can sign up right here. All these links I am providing are affiliate links. An affiliate link allows me to earn a small percentage of the conference price, while you don’t pay anything extra. Thank you for your support!

Mom Monday Week 8 – The Charlotte Mason Series

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Some of you might know how much I enjoy the Charlotte Mason method in my homeschool: the gentle approach to learning, living books, awe-inspiring nature walks, foreign languages, habit training. I have read great books about the Charlotte Mason approach, like For the Children’s Sake. I recently started A Charlotte Mason Companion.

It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to read the lady herself. To listen to her own words, if you will, and try to penetrate the meaning of those Victorian phrases myself.

Charlotte Mason Series

I especially thought about her Home Education series – a six-volume set. Too much to read? Perhaps. So I put the thought aside. I have a few too many books on my night stand at this moment.

The other day, I got to spend half an hour at Cedar Springs Christian Bookstore in Knoxville, which features a whole section for homeschool curriculum, some gently used. I have had some luck in the past finding treasures over there. Continue reading »

When I saw the Charlotte Mason six volumes in a box by themselves, they called my name. I was delighted.

The Charlotte Mason Six Volumes on Home Education

The six volumes, quietly waiting for me to go through them in the next few months.

Now that Downton Abbey is over for ten long months, I will have to travel to England by means of these great books. I don’t have a deadline to finish these volumes by. I will think of them as my reward at the end of a long homeschooling day. When I finish, I finish. That way, I can enjoy every turn of phrase, every concept, and every new idea.

Six volumes may sound like a lot. And it is.

Well, one must start somewhere. Slowly but surely, I will get it done.

Katie Meets the Impressionists Review

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(This post contains affiliate links, i.e. you purchase great products at no additional cost to you and I receive a small percentage of their price. For my full disclosure policy, click here.)

Homeschooling moms tend to be curious, life-long learners because teachers must be willing to learn constantly. Personally, I love studying new things. I almost feel selfish at times for all the fun I have learning and reading and preparing my lesson plans for the following day. Take, for instance, art appreciation.

Recently, I came across a series of art books for kids, featuring Katie, a little girl who goes to the art museum and can enter and exit paintings as needed. James Mayhew, a graduate of Maidstone College of Art, wrote at least a dozen of these books, from what I can gather, and I want all of them! Do I sound like the nerdy kid from “The Polar Express” movie, when they passed by the toy store window?

We bought two titles to get started on our collection: “Katie Meets the Impressionists” and “Katie and the Spanish Princess.” My children asked me to read each of them twice the first time we cracked them open. That night, they asked daddy to read them again.

Auguste Renoir (French, 1841 - 1919 ), A Girl with a Watering Can, 1876, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection

My three-year-old recognized this painting. We have seen it before in “A Year in Art.” It was the first confirmation I received that my art education efforts are paying off.

In “Katie Meets the Impressionists,” our heroine meets Jean, Claude Monet’s son, as well as the Girl with the Watering Can, the girl on “Her First Evening Out,” and lots of Blue Dancers – all mesmerizing characters in famous paintings by Monet, Renoir and Degas.

I was very proud of my three-year-old daughter who reacted as soon as she saw the Girl with the Watering Can – “She’s the girl from that other book!” My daughter recognized the girl in the painting because we have been using “A Year in Art” for our tea time and this painting is featured in there.

Charlotte Mason advocated exposure to art. Most educators believe in the refining influence of art education. “Katie Meets the Impressionists” provides a gentle introduction to or an exciting continuation of art appreciation.

For the French names or words in the book, a Google search like “Degas pronunciation” helps.

Your own copy of this book, which you can show your children again and again, will create great homeschooling memories.

Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop

Our First Official Homeschool Break

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We homeschool for six weeks and take a week off. Many veteran homeschoolers have recommended this schedule as a sanity preserver, so I am going with the voice of experience. We have homeschooled now for six weeks and this is the first official school break in our home. It’s exciting.

I thought this would be the week when I finally finish some writing projects and can applesauce, but I have all kinds of other appointments which I was not planning on. On top of that, our monthly Ripley’s Aquarium science class happens to be this week and we still have another session of our Adventurer Club to attend before we take a two-week break from that…

Looks like learning will happen despite the break from the 3Rs.

The curve ball is the bug my daughter has been fighting for a few days now and which has transferred to my son today.

Speaking of my son, I asked him to sweep the floor after lunch and he did a great job. I still had to sweep a bit after him in places, but he has made a lot of progress since last week. He was proud of what he accomplished. After he missed the trash can though, he got discouraged. He asked me to sweep up the mess. I told him that he was still learning and encouraged him not to give up. He was still negative, but stood there and watched me sweep.

After I cleaned up the trash can area, he came back to me asking me to let him try dumping the dust pan again. He did not miss this time. I felt he was growing right there before my eyes, not just in home ec. skills, but also in attitude towards work and in his self-image.

Work is an important component of the Moore Formula (besides academics and service). I think children learn so much by working and performing chores around the house.

As I look up, I thank God for every day I am able to stay home and teach the kids.

As I look up, I thank God for every day I am able to stay home and teach the kids.

When we visited their grandmother in the hospital over the weekend (that falls under service, by the way), my son narrated a whole book to her of his own free will – Curious George Gets a Job. (Narration is a Charlotte Mason method.)

Of all the books we have read to him recently, he thought of that one because George broke his leg and had to wear a cast – like grandmother, who fell and broke her leg, and has to wear a cast now.

My daughter sang I’m a Super Sleuth – which she learned in church recently – also of her own free will. Children are so good at comforting others. They are natural at it.

I feel so blessed to be able to stay home with them and teach them and watch them grow and learn.

Homeschooling blesses me just as much as it blesses them. Which is why, when I look up at the sky, I thank God for my life. How did I get to be so lucky?

How to Homeschool

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Homeschooling is different for every family, but there are six basic approaches or methods:

1. Classical – A child’s brain development naturally sets the stage for the trivium: primary school, or the grammar stage, during which learning is based on concrete tasks and memorizing facts; middle school or the logic stage, during which learning tackles abstract concepts and reasoning from cause to effect; and high school or the rhetoric stage, when learning focuses more on expressing what has already been acquired. This is the method I lean toward heavily.

2. Charlotte Mason – A British educator of the nineteenth century, Ms. Mason is more relevant today than ever, in my opinion. Her emphasis on living books, i.e. regular books (as opposed to textbooks/workbooks), narration, and nature study would bring life into any educational pursuit. I like this approach very much and use it to balance my natural propensity toward rote memorization. Get more information about Charlotte here. Want a free curriculum with a Charlotte Mason approach? Get it here.

3. Unit Studies – The method which took me the most to understand and appreciate, even though I studied under one of its biggest proponents. The Prussian educational method of separating knowledge into subjects, which was used in my public school, had indoctrinated, errr…. trained me well. Once I got unit studies though, I used Before Five in a Row and came to a new level of freedom in my mind about home education. The mother of all unit study curricula is Konos. I find I am not brave enough for it, but it obviously works for a great number of homeschoolers. In conclusion, I use this method sparingly.

4. Traditional – Most of us learned like this in a public school somewhere around the world. Textbooks provide the theory, which you apply while filling out workbooks. Homeschoolers tend to call this method dry and boring, but some children thrive on this. I have a three-year old who asks for worksheets almost every day. Rod and Staff, Abeka and Bob Jones are examples of traditional curricula. Personally, I use Rod and Staff and anything I can find online. There is a vast array of worksheets online. Don’t get overwhelmed.

5. Unschooling – Also known as relaxed homeschooling or delight-based or child-led. I could not be an unschooler, but I like the emphasis on the child’s desire to look into a certain topic. I recognize that the highest point of learning is when a child asks a question. I capitalize on those teaching moments throughout the day. However, I need the structure of a schedule and a carefully laid out curriculum to feel sane.

6. Eclectic – People like me, who pick and choose at least two different methods, curricula and approaches to tailor the education of their children, are called eclectic homeschoolers.

I am leaving out Montessori, Waldorf, independent study, umbrella/charter/online schools and other methods. The best book I have found, which I think any homeschooler should have on their reference shelf, is Cathy Duffy’s “101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum“. The first few chapters explain methods and learning styles. You will walk away with a clearer picture of what your homeschool should be like.

Special note on The Moore Formula

For a balanced education, i.e. one which trains the hand, the heart and the head, taking into consideration a child’s readiness level for formal education, I always keep in mind The Moore Foundation’s philosophy. In fact, it is the overarching method I keep in mind before making any decision in my homeschool.